Thursday, January 31, 2008

Grapefruit Mousse

Yes, it is impressive, but what a pain in the arse. But look, it didn't slide off the plate onto the kitchen floor, and unlike most things I make, is somewhat level.

The recipe may be found HERE.

Gee, That Liver Smells Offal

Sorry, couldn't resist.

I opened the package of thawed beef livers to wash them off and they fell apart in my hands. I don't think that's supposed to happen. I might have added a few new words to Danny's vocabulary. I took a deep breath, grabbed a plastic bag and sealed them up tightly to toss out. I'm sure the feral cats that wander around the farm rubbish pit will be delighted.

That's OK, at least I had the potatoes. Actually, the potato pudding was going fine-great even. I plunked it all into a pan and set it in the oven only to turn around and realise the bread crumbs and baking powder were still in a bowl on the counter. I pulled the entire thing out of the oven, dumped it in a pot, re-stirred the dry ingredients in and baked it. I'm sure it will be fine, if I can pry it off the pan I forgot to re-grease before refilling.

But hey, everyone has those kinds of days-at least I had the pretty pink white chocolate truffles to decorate the grapefruit mousse mould, right? Oh well, I guess they decided today was going to be the day my "never-fail" truffles failed. They never set. OK, well I still have the grapefruit mould, right?

I do. It was a bit tricky unmoulding and I'm afraid it is terribly plain looking as well, but if you think I'm going to risk losing it by opening the freezer door before I'm ready to serve it, think again. At the rate I'm going, that might be all we have for dinner.

There really ought to be a rule that if you screw-up three things in the process of making dinner you get to dine out.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Grapefruit Compote

After successfully using every last orange in the 18 pound bag we'd bought for something absurd like .25 cents a pound, we decided to give grapefruit a try (that was more like .40 cents a pound, but still a great deal).

18 Pounds is quite a bit of grapefruit. At the moment I have a frozen grapefruit mousse mould in the freezer (recipe upon unmoulding tomorrow or the day following), a small pitcher of juice, and the compote pictured here. I know it doesn't look like much, but this is no ordinary compote.

Ginger and star anise cooked in a sugar syrup combine with the grapefruit for what must be the best fragrance I've ever encountered. I should bottle this stuff and sell it as air freshener. Oh sure, it tastes good, but oh my goodness the smell is wonderful.

The hardest part is sectioning the grapefruit. If you're like me and the winter is getting to your skin, wear gloves for this.

You Will Need:

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup thinly sliced ginger

6 whole start anise

1/2 tablespoon grapefruit peel, grated

6 grapefruits, sectioned

Bring 1 cup of water and sugar to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until it thickens slightly (about ten minutes). Stir in the grapefruit peel. Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes.

Place grapefruit sections in a large bowl. Remove ginger from syrup and discard. Pour the syrup over the sections and let sit at room temperature for an hour, stirring occasionally.

Discard star anise and refrigerate compote. Serve cold.

Cheap Holiday In Other People's Misery

One of the books our three year old is fascinated with is a photographic coffee-table account of the Berlin Wall coming down. For the past few days, Danny has been asking me questions about where it was, why people were laughing, crying and so on. I did the best I could to explain it to him in a way a three year old could understand. Then, I forgot about it-until this afternoon.

There he was, my little boy building a pretty good model of the Brandenburg gate with blocks. For added realism, he propped his Fisher Price Little People atop the wall. At the bottom, he was playing with Matchbox cars.

"Can we come in? We're tired of East German haircuts and bad cigarettes. Lookout Checkpoint Charlie, we're zooming through the wall..."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Chocolate Malt Cookies

I could probably go the rest of my life without consuming malted milk and not miss it in the least. I'm clearly in the minority at our house. Last year, I experimented with making malted milk squares coated in chocolate that everyone raved about, but I rated as so-so. In other words, I'm not really the person to assess these cookies. Danny however, wolfed down three of them after a somewhat large lunch and would have eaten three more had I not stopped him. The kid is just in love with malt (and chocolate). I look at it this way; at least he's not clamouring for grilled sheep kidneys. I can do a reasonable job supplying him with his favourite sweets.

THIS recipe comes from Chris at The Accidental Housewife, where you should all go immediately to begin reading. Go on, shoo.

Just a note-the cookie filling has three ounces of cream cheese in it. As it is uncooked, I was concerned about the safety of leaving them out (though I probably could, it's bloody freezing here). I layered mine in a large casserole dish with waxed paper between the layers and have been bringing them out twenty minutes before serving. This is probably unnecessary, but with medications that suppress my immune system, I'm not taking chances (unless it is a really, really, expensive slice of ripe, unpasteurised cheese-but I'm not taking the chance for malt). Do as you think best. I did briefly think of substituting Crisco in the recipe but was afraid Martha Stewart might catch wind of it and come up here to kick the shit out of me. Have you ever been knocked down and repeatedly kicked in the face with a Bass Weejun? It hurts! So yeah, don't go for the solid shortening, just take precautions with room temperature dairy as you see fit.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Curried Potatoes

When you boil the potatoes, consider saving out a cup of the potato water for baking bread. I use it to make the sour starter for my rye breads, but potato water can give any bread a lift. You're boiling potatoes anyway, seems like such a shame to just toss the water away.

I don't really have a recipe for these. I fry and onion in a generous amount of oil, toss in the potatoes, some cooked peas and two teaspoons Madras curry powder. A little salt to balance it out and that's about it.

The following few recipes (scroll down) were all part of my Indian inspired dinner tonight. I made naan, paneer, curried peas and saag. We'll have a few nights of leftovers from one day's cooking which is always nice. If you've never made paneer, it really is the simplest thing to do-and then you get to brag about how you made cheese, all by yourself.

Anyway, scroll through the next few posts and try to imagine the dishes on a plate, since I'm afraid they just aren't terribly attractive the way I've presented them here. It washowever, a delicious meal I'd consider worth the effort. It also met with approval from Danny.

Saag Paneer (Spinach And Cabbage Puree)

You can make saag without the addition of paneer, but since I had it on hand for the curried pea recipe (see previous post) I went ahead and added it to the saag.

It almost seemed futile taking photographs-this isn't exactly a photogenic meal. It did turn out quite well, just not much to look at I'm afraid (sort of like the cook...)

You Will Need:

Fried paneer (follow instructions in previous recipe for curried peas)

1 package frozen spinach, cooked and drained

1 medium head cabbage, shredded

1 cup water

2 teaspoons fresh ginger root, chopped

salt to taste

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons garam masala

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 medium onions, chopped

Fry the paneer and set aside.

Cook and drain the spinach. Shred the cabbage and rinse well. Boil the cabbage and cooked spinach together with the water, ginger salt and pepper until very soft-about 25 minutes, in a covered pot.

Mash the vegetables with a wooden spoon (or a potato masher). Add butter and boil until all the water is absorbed. Stir this well so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. Add garam masala and lemon juice. Keep mixing until it is smooth.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the cumin and fry 2 minutes. Add the garlic and onions and fry until soft-about five minutes. Add to the spinach/cabbage mixture. Add paneer just before serving.

Matar Paneer (Green Peas and Cheese Curry)

Easy? Oh yeah. The hardest part was frying the paneer-everything else was just stirring. The recipe is from The Spice Box by, Manju Shivraj Singh. It is an older book and somewhat hard to find, but the recipes are quite simple for westerners to make sense of. Definitely a book worth purchasing if you see it.

You Will Need:

Paneer (see previous recipe)

3 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

4 medium onions, finely chopped

1/2 cup hot water

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

4 teaspoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon cayenne (this will be very hot-for a mild curry, use 1/4 teaspoon-it will be plenty)

3 teaspoons ground coriander

salt to taste

1 cup yoghurt

1 cup cooked peas

1 teaspoon garam masala

Fry paneer in oil or ghee until golden. Set aside.

In a heavy frying pan, heat the oil and add the cumin seeds. Fry two minutes. Add the onions and cook until browned. Add 1/2 cup hot water, garlic, and ginger. Simmer five minutes.

Add the tomato paste, spices and salt. Stir and cook a few minutes. Add the yoghurt and simmer ten more minutes. Add the peas and garam masala powder. Before serving, add the paneer.


If you're looking for a way to make your small child think you are both genius and magician, try making paneer. Paneer is one of those things that always seems a bit surprising that it works as well as it does. I made mine with lemon juice, but I've seen recipes that use buttermilk and sometimes even yoghurt. The yoghurt recipes would be nice if you plan to use the cheese in a dessert and don't want it quite so tangy.

You Will Need:

6 cups whole milk

Juice of 3 lemons, strained

Bring the milk to a boil. Add the lemon juice. Stir until the milk curdles. Cover and remove from heat. Let sit twenty minutes.

Set a colander in the sink lined with a piece of muslin. Strain through cloth and squeeze out all the fluid. Tie a knot in the muslin and place it back in the colander. Fill a 1 quart jar with water and use it to weight the cheese. Let drain, under weight for at least two hours, or as long as four (it should form pretty solidly in about two).

Remove from cloth, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate.


This was the easiest recipe for naan I've ever made. I skipped the brushing it with ghee and onion seeds as I planned to re-heat some the following day. Just be sure to have clarified butter on hand before you start. If you are making it that day, let it cool completely before using it to make bread or the yoghurt will curdle (that's the voice of experience speaking, though it did still make bread, if not naan).

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Zucker Bretzeln-Sugar Pretzels

The recipe for these comes from the June 1973 issue of Gourmet from the two sets I bought at the library sale in Wahoo, Nebraska. If you were the person that donated those two years worth of bound issues-thank you. I'm having a great time cooking my way through them.

The recipe is simple enough, and makes a large number of cookies-perfect for bringing to work. You'll want to use an electric mixer for this one as the dough is quite stiff. If you have children at home, enlist their help forming the dough into lengths to make the pretzels. It is slow work, but a lovely enough way to spend an afternoon, provided your three year old helper does not pick up in the middle to go off for a nap! I mean, what was I going to do, insist he stay awake and finish making pretzels? I'm sure that would be an interesting childhood memory to share with a therapist some day.

You Will Need:

3 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 eggs

3 egg yolks

5 cups sifted flour

1 egg white

coarse sugar or pearl sugar for topping

Mix together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well. Add the five cups of flour and mix well. Form into a ball and wrap in waxed paper. Chill two hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

If you have it, cover sheets with parchment (I didn't do this for the first batch and regretted it) otherwise grease your baking sheets and hope for the best.

Divide the dough in thirds. Return other two sections to icebox while you work.Each third should then be divided in half. Roll each half into a length about ten inches long. Divide into ten pieces. Roll each piece into a strip the thickness of a pencil and twist it into a pretzel shape. Place on baking sheet. Before baking, brush with egg whites and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 15 minutes or until slightly browned. Remove carefully (they are delicate) and cool on racks. Makes about 60.

Chocolate And Apricot Filled Ladyfingers

I always thought Julia Child was being a bit of a food snob when she would carry on about store bought ladyfingers being unsuitable for Charlotte Malakoff or anything else.
"Oh sure, packaged ladyfingers are an abomination" I'd think, and laugh.

Today, I made Julia Child's recipe for ladyfingers and I must admit, they are far superior to the packaged variety. Honestly, they hardly seem to be the same thing at all and it seems unfair to try and compare.

What I find so special about these is how the tops are dusted with confectioner's sugar prior to baking. This creates the most wonderful, crackly top that makes these cookies stand out. The outsides were crisp, while the insides were tender. Really, a remarkable cookie that I can now imagine all sorts of uses for.

The recipe will make 24-30 4 inch ladyfingers. Mine were much longer and as a result I only got fourteen. I'm not that skilled with the pastry bag, so I might have lost some of the batter there as well. They did spread a bit, which would indicate my batter was a bit wetter than it should have been (I seem to have a habit of over beating my egg whites, but this time I suppose they could have used a bit more). Still, they were by no means a 'flop" and everyone was quite impressed with them.

For the filling I cooked and strained some apricot preserves and then put it through a sieve and cooked it down until it thickened. For the chocolate I simply melted 2 ounces of bittersweet and spread it on the ladyfingers. I thought about making a buttercream, but thought better of it. These ladyfingers made a light dessert with just enough sweetness from the chocolate and jam to be satisfying without the heaviness of buttercream.

Because you need to turn the sheets upside down to knock off the sugar (the ladyfingers really do stay put) you'll need to butter and flour the pans. This will seem like a trial to the "parchment dependent", I'm sure, but I don't really see any other way.

Get everything measured and set before you begin baking and it will be a breeze.

You Will Need:

Butter and flour for preparing baking sheets
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar in a sieve

For the batter:

1/2 cup caster sugar
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 egg whites
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon caster sugar
2/3 cup sifted cake flour returned to sieve or sifter

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. with the racks in the upper third and centre positions.
Assemble your pastry bag with the round 1/2 inch tip.

Gradually beat the 1/2 cup caster sugar into the egg yolks. Add the vanilla and keep beating until it is pale yellow and forms a ribbon.

Beat the egg whites and salt together until soft peaks are formed. Sprinkle on the tablespoon of sugar and keep beating until it is stiff peaks.

Scoop 1/4 of the egg whites out and place over the egg yolk mixture. Sift 1/4 of the flour over and fold very carefully until partially blended. Do not obsess about mixing it completely as it will deflate the batter. Repeat the process two more times until all parts are incorporated.

Scoop the batter into the pastry bag and make fingers about 4 inches long. Space them about 1 inch apart. Sprinkle with the confectioners sugar to a coating of 1/16 thickness. Turn the sheet over and gently tap to remove excess sugar.

Bake the ladyfingers in the middle and upper third racks for about 20 minutes or until they are very pale brown under the sugar coating. They should be dry inside, but not over dry. Remove and cool completely on racks before filling as desired.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Pickled Egg Update

Look how pretty they are. For directions, scroll down and read all about it.

Bigger Eats Smaller

Just as predicted by the swell folks at NOAA, high winds started sweeping in shortly after noon. I've lived here for seven years and the house has never actually shook. The wind is coming from the north and I'm actually a bit concerned that the windows in the living room might break.

Of course, being worried that the windows might come crashing-in, I did what any sensible person would do-ran to look outside! That part of the storm warnings where they say to keep away from windows and doors does not apply to me. Anyway, I look out the window and see the neighbour's dog running around by the garbage pit. What I wasn't prepared for was to see her carrying a small, dead cat in her mouth. Truth be told, I'm sort of amazed she could kill a cat, being old, blind in one eye and so lame that she limps. Those feral farm cats are pretty tough. Unless it was already dead, which given the recent cold is possible.

For a second, I thought about calling her owners to mention what their dog's been up to, but then I thought better of it. I mean, what are they going to do, brush her teeth? Have a laugh at the idiot "city lady?" Sometimes I'm keenly aware that I'll never really fit-in with country living. I've spent my entire life in large cities, and while it is true that city cats and dogs meet terrible ends as well, it just isn't the same. Much as I'd like to think I'm over most aspects of squeamishness (what rural life didn't rid me of, motherhood did), sometimes I really wish I didn't need to see the food chain in action. Of course, if all those feral cats would set their efforts on the mice that find their way into the house each fall, I might reconsider my position.

The snow is blowing around now-I can't see fifty yards from the house. Winter. Blech. I should go bake some cookies.


These baguettes are simple and fast. I hadn't planned on making bread today, so I didn't prepare a sponge ahead. The bread isn't as flavourful as ones that have the extra fermentation time, but they still make nice, crusty loaves to serve in a hurry.

You Will Need:

2 teaspoons granulated dry (not instant) yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon salt

2 cups warm water

5-6 cups bread flour

In the warm water, proof the yeast with the sugar. Add the salt and three cups of the flour, mixing well. Remove dough to a floured surface and continue adding flour until dough is workable. It can be rather wet and slack.

Place dough in a greased bowl and let rise 1 hour. Remove to floured surface, gently de-gas and fold in envelope fashion once lengthwise and once vertically. Return to greased bowl, cover and let rise another hour. Repeat folding. Let rise one additional half hour. Remove to surface, de-gas and cover. Let rest fifteen minutes.

Lightly toss cornmeal on a baking sheet. Divide dough into two pieces and form into baguettes. Place on sheet and cover. Let rise until doubled.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. for at least forty minutes prior to baking. If creating steam with a pan, set it in the bottom of the oven as it heats. Slash loaves before baking and create steam in oven (check your owner's manual before doing this if it is your first time). Load the loaves and bake 10 minutes. Carefully open the oven from the side (in case of steam blasts) and rotate the sheet. Bake another ten to fifteen minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 200 degrees F. Or the loaves are dark and sound hollow. Cool completely on a rack before slicing.

This bread does not last well beyond a day, but it freezes beautifully when wrapped in waxed paper and then plastic wrap.

No Husband Of Mine Will Go Without Pickled Eggs

I only wish he hadn't waited nearly fifteen years to tell me he likes them. I should have figured, but until he saw them mentioned in one of the new (old) cookbooks, I hadn't a clue. Well, early this morning I set about correcting this absence of pickled eggs from our lives. I ended-up following the suggested spices in From Amish And Mennonite Kitchens, though they didn't mention sterilising a jar. That's just me. I'm sure the vinegar would be a hostile environment for bacteria growth, and we're going to eat these in a couple days, but I'm neurotic about food safety. Trust your judgement.

Easy? Oh yes, indeed it is.

You Will Need:

1 sterilised jar

1 cup beet juice (I opened a tin of beets)

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

5 whole cloves

1 cinnamon stick

1 large onion, finely sliced

6 hard boiled eggs, cooled and shells removed

1 cup + white vinegar

In a sauce pan, cook the beet juice, sugar, salt, cloves, cinnamon, and onion until onions are soft and syrup has thickened a bit (it should just barely coat the spoon). Drain, reserving liquid. Cool everything completely (I stuck the liquid in the freezer and the onions in the fridge for about 15 minutes). To the liquid, add one cup of white vinegar. Place eggs and onion/spice mixture into jar. Cover with liquid, topping off with additional vinegar if needed. Allow to cool additionally in fridge uncovered (just in case) and then seal when you're sure it is cold. Ready to eat in half a day, and lasts up to four.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Cookie Has Been Gone Five Years

-But people are just first noticing Hydrox cookies have disappeared?

We didn't get cookies like Hydrox or Oreoes growing up. Sometimes, if my mum was sick and dad did the shopping, we might get those almond cookies shaped like windmills (which I had to pick the almonds out of because they made my mouth itch and in large enough quantity, induced vomiting). With a diabetic in charge of the shopping and meal planning, I never had the opportunity to develop an attachment to cookies.

I suppose they're the same people endlessly carrying on over the disappearance of Sen Sen.

Cinder Toffee

For what was probably the first time in at least thirty years, I wanted a Crunchie bar. Problem one: I live in rural Nebraska. Problem two: Even if I drove 60 miles into Omaha to buy one at the World market, odds are pretty good the candy bar will be disappointing. I couldn't imagine any circumstances where I'd drive to Omaha for a candy bar-so I went Googling.

I'd noticed THIS blog before, and figured the recipe was just about as much of a challenge as I was up for today-three ingredients (well, five if you count the chocolate and butter coating).

"I can do that." I thought to myself.

Yes, but the first try went horribly wrong (see photo). By the second batch I'd figured out that you must not stir the syrup once it has dissolved the sugar and furthermore, once it is tipped out of the pot, do not touch it, spread it, or so much as breathe in its presence, or it will deflate immediately. The subsequent batches went much better.

Once it was cooled, I melted 1 tablespoon of butter and two ounces of shaved, semi sweet chocolate in a pan and then dipped the cinder toffee into it.

I Guess This Makes It A Theme

Making parfaits twice in a week seems to meet the qualification of establishing a theme.

In the process of arranging my pantry I discovered a small box of Junket. I don't know why/when I bought it, and I'm pretty sure I've never made it before. Probably won't make it again.

I can't say if I'm more put off by the bright colour or the overpowering artificial strawberry fragrance. Either way, I'm guessing that it is probably not destined to become a staple item in our house.

As you can see from the photograph, my parfait layering skills have not improved much since last weekend. I admire food stylists-but I wouldn't want to be one.

I wonder how long it will take for the red staining to cook out of my good enamel pot.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Raisin Filled Cookies

From the outset, let me point out that unless you are extremely comfortable with a rolling pin and very soft dough, you may wish to reconsider this recipe. They are wonderful cookies, but a major pain in the behind to work with. Freezing the dough does not help.

Assuming you're armed with a very thin spatula for moving these to the baking sheet (you'll need it to get the cookies off the cutting board) here is the recipe. Don't say I didn't warn you. The recipe comes from the 1950 edition of the Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book.

For the dough:

1/2 cup soft shortening

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix together the shortening, sugar and eggs. Stir in the cream and vanilla. Sift the dry ingredients together and add to the creamed mixture. Combine well, roll into a ball and chill well-at least four hours or better, overnight.


1 cup raisins, chopped

1/2 cup sultanas, chopped

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Cook slowly, stirring constantly until thickened. About 5-7 minutes. Cool completely before using to fill cookies.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Lightly grease a baking sheet. Roll out dough 1/8 inch thick. Cut into 3 inch rounds. Place filling on centre of bottom round. Cut shape out of top piece. Place over round with filling and press closed with fork. Transfer to baking sheet. You can also do these on a single round, like a turnover, pressing into a crescent.

Bake cookies 8-9 minutes, or until lightly browned at edges. Cool on racks.

Olive And Onion Bread

I used THIS basic recipe, but substituted bread flour, a bit more water in the sponge, green olives and a white onion. Instead of spritzing the loaves with water, I created steam in the oven instead.

The long rises make this a great recipe for people who don't like being tied to the house waiting for bread to rise. Given the flexibility (rise between four and eighteen hours? That's some span!) the recipe can be made to fit just about any schedule.

The loaves don't get much spring in the oven, and given the very small amount of yeast (just 1/2 teaspoon in the sponge) they don't rise very much. Still, if you like olives, this is a simple enough bread to toss together. I'm serving it with assorted cheeses and a vegetable soup for dinner.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

So, How Were The Parfaits?

Recipes For The Woman In A Hurry

It was published in 1950, by a home economics board in Chicago that no longer exists. My son discovered it today and spent hours delighted by the whimsical line drawings.

"Why does the mama have her hat and gloves on to cook?"
"Well, see her coat and handbag on the kitchen chair? She just came home, and is in a hurry to make dinner."
"Why is the cat watching her?"
"It probably wants something to eat."
"Why was the mama in such a hurry? Where was she?"
"Oh, probably playing bridge, or frequenting one of the taverns on South State street looking for...or shopping. She was probably out shopping."
(Turning page)
"Who is the man?"
"He's the butcher. See, she's telling him to keep his finger off the scale..."*

And Later:

"What's that?"
"A waffle iron."
"What's a waffle?"
"Like a pancake, with indentations."
(Blank stare).
"Well, first the mama mixes up some batter (pretend to mix batter) then she pours it in a waffle iron and puts the lid down (motion of closing lid). It goes, "sizzle, sizzle, sizzle and then...POOF! Then the mama yells, "Oh crap! We blew a fuse again. So the papa trudges down to the cellar and replaces the fuse and yells upstairs to the mama, "OK?!" and then she yells back down the stairs, "Yes, thank you." and she finishes making the waffles which then stick to the iron because in her haste she forgot to grease it."
(Blank stare from Danny)
"Hear it again?"

Later still:

"Have some waffles?"
"I don't own a waffle iron."
"Parfaits then? I'm only hungry enough to eat parfaits."

Which is a good thing, as I don't do waffles.

*True story. My dad once sent my sister to the butcher shop to pick something up and told her to tell him, "Keep your finger off the scale" which she proceeded to do, much to my mother's horror upon hearing about it.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Goat Stew

If you've ever wondered what people do with a 2 1/2 pound bag of meat labeled, "Goat Chunks", well here's one possibility!

I really had no idea what to do with these (as I wasn't ever sure what part of the goat the "chunks" came from). The meat was very lean, and full of sharp, tiny bones so I opted for cooking it alone first, then removing the meat before adding it to a stew. This was a good decision. It also gave me an opportunity to de-grease the broth (though it really wasn't terribly fatty) and re-use a bit of it in the stew.

I realised there's a good reason that so many recipes talk about goat and mutton interchangeably. They are similar in many ways, though as I already noted, the goat meat is quite lean. I could see using the meat in a Scotch Broth, or Pot Pie as easily as in the Mediterranean style stew I made. I suspect it would make interesting chili as well.

If there's one thing I really want to stress it is to cook slowly. The meat is quite tough and will really benefit from long, slow cooking. What you don't want to do with meat like this is boil it-so if your stove is prone to flame-ups, keep an eye on the pot.

Would I buy it again? I have no idea. It wasn't exactly cheap (imported from Australia) and honestly, not terribly special. I suppose if my husband had gone dancing through the house chanting, "More goat! More Goat!" well, then I'd have to reconsider. He was home from work today and pretty excited when he saw what I was making, but less than blown-away when he tried a bowl. Maybe it improves after a day of sitting in the fridge.

I didn't have a recipe and I was a bit low on staples (note the absence of both chick peas and carrots, both of which I think would improve the dish) but here's what I ended-up doing.

You Will Need:

2 1/2 pounds of goat meat (or, "chunks")


salt and pepper

oil for browning

2 large onions, sliced

4 large garlic cloves, smashed

4 tablespoons ground cumin

4 bay leaves

1 bag frozen lima beans

1 tin while beans, drained and rinsed

1 large tin Italian tomatoes, drained and chopped

3 tablespoons dried mint

Additional salt and pepper

Wash meat and dry well. Dredge in flour with a bit of salt and pepper and brown in oil in a large dutch oven. Remove browned pieces to a plate. Add a bit more oil if needed and fry the onion and garlic for a few minutes until softened. Stir in the cumin, salt and pepper. Add the bay leaves and stir well. Add the goat meat back to the pot and add enough water to cover everything. Bring to just below a boil and then reduce to simmer. Cook uncovered for about two hours or until the meat is fork-tender. You want this to go at a very slow simmer, so keep an eye on the pot to make sure it does not begin to boil as water evaporates.

Drain through a cheesecloth lined sieve and reserve the liquid. Let meat cool (really, don't be an idiot like me trying to pull hot meat away from bones).

In the same pot (you don't need to wash it) add the frozen lima beans, the tinned white beans (or chickpeas) and everything else. When meat is removed from bones, add it as well. Pour in enough of the reserved broth to cover everything and then bring again to a boil. Reduce to very low heat and cover, leaving about 1 inch open at the lid. Cook another 1-2 hours until everything is quite soft.

Serve over rice.


I'm told, that my chocolate pudding is exceptional. As it isn't one of my favourite desserts, my enthusiasm for making it just isn't there. On the occasions when I do make it though, people do carry on a bit over the flavour, texture, etc. I suppose if you've only ever had pudding from a box, then it would seem pretty terrific.

I made mine with skim milk because that's what I keep on hand these days (powdered, no less). My son drinks three 8 oz. glasses a day and isn't very particular about the fat content of his milk. I figured with all the butter and heavy cream that passes through this house, skim milk would be a good balance if he'd drink it-and he does. Because there is a bit of butter in the pudding as well, I'd avoid making it with whole milk-it just seems like overkill for pudding.

The whipped cream was straightforward enough though I added1/4 cup of sugar and a 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract to give it some depth. That would be optional, or irrelevant if using pre-made whipped cream.

As you can see, I don't own parfait glasses, but these seemed to do the trick. I suppose there's a learning curve for neatly layering parfaits, but hopefully I won't be making these often enough to master it. I did get an impressed look from my three year old when he saw I was making something he had requested from a cookbook illustration. I guess it doesn't take much to impress a toddler.

So here's the pudding recipe. You can make it as vanilla by omitting the chocolate and only using 1/4 cup sugar.

You Will Need:

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 oz unsweetened chocolate, shaved

2 egg yolks

2 cups milk

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

In a heavy saucepan combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, chocolate and egg. Slowly add the milk and cook over low heat, whisking constantly. When mixture comes to a boil, cook one additional minute. Remove from heat. Beat in butter and vanilla. Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap directly on pudding surface to prevent a skin forming. With a sharp knife, poke a couple of holes in the film to let heat escape. Cool in fridge.

Layer as desired with whipped cream, or pour into small dishes and serve cold.

Onion Filled Challah

I went with the idea of an onion-filled braid but used my challah recipe instead. I also omitted the Parmesan cheese in the filling which so many onion breads seem to favour. I couldn't see where a tablespoon of grated cheese would add anything and truth be told, I didn't feel like getting out the grater for such a small amount.

This recipe will work for rolls as well-just don't braid the sections and slice them into pinwheels instead.

You Will Need:

6 3/4 teaspoons dry yeast (yes, that is quite a bit)

1 1/3 cups warm water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon coarse salt

3 tablespoons softened butter

3 large eggs

5-6 cups bread flour

1 egg yolk plus 1 teaspoon water for glaze

For the filling:

1/4 cup dehydrated onion flakes

1 teaspoon poppy seeds

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1/4 cup butter

Proof the yeast in a large bowl with the water. Add salt and sugar. Add eggs, butter and two cups of the flour. Beat well. Add remaining flour slowly until you can work the dough. Knead, adding flour as you go until dough is elastic but not dry. Place in a buttered bowl and let rise until doubled-about 1 1/2 hours.

Make the filling by melting the butter and stirring in the rest. Let stand about ten minutes before using.

Deflate dough and roll into a large rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Spread the onion mixture over the dough. With a sharp knife, cut into three long sections. Roll each up carefully and pinch closed. When all three are rolled, place on a buttered baking sheet and let rise until just about doubled-around 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush loaf with egg wash and bake 20 minutes. Check loaf. If it looks dark and sounds hollow, pull it out and cool on a rack. It can take as long as half an hour, but you really need to keep an eye on it as it will dry out quickly.

Makes 1 (very) large loaf

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I Have Goat A-Thawin'

About two pounds of bone-in chunks of goat meat. I guess I'll do a stew as I can't really think of anything else. As much as I like the idea of goat tamales, the thought of standing on my feet doing all that work is enough to dissuade me. I'm still not really feeling well and even under the best conditions, tamales are a major project.

Today I made another batch of pierogi dough and used up the rest of the filling. That ended up being close to five dozen, all told. I'll cook half of the second batch tonight and again, freeze the rest. As a two-day project, it wasn't bad and now I have a few ready-made meals in the freezer.

Danny has requested parfaits for tomorrow. I can't say I've ever made parfaits, but how hard can layering pudding and whipped cream in a glass be...(from my mouth to God's ears...)?

I'm Such A Moron, Pt. 3,075,082

I'm still re-adding people to my blogroll that disappeared when I changed templates. If you don't see your blog there it isn't personal-it's because I'm an idiot and keep realising I've forgotten people.

That's nothing though-yesterday I was sure I had a troll posting things under my name until I looked closely and saw it read, "commontheme" not "cornmotherne."

So I'm blind along with stupid and illiterate.

Sheesh. Do let me know if you've suddenly dropped off the blogroll.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pierogi With Onions, Mushrooms And Potatoes

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I spent 24 years living in Chicago and never tried making pierogi.I suppose, having good ones available in any supermarket freezer case made it a little pointless. Well, today I finally pulled my act together and made some.

How were they? They were good. Really good. Scroll down to next post for additional photographs of the process.

I guess half a cup of sour cream will make any pasta dough taste good. I used the real thing, so I cannot vouch for the success of using "light" sour cream. Oh yeah, that 1/4 cup of butter probably helped too. And the egg. Well, you get the idea that this isn't health food.

I found the recipe for the dough HERE. For the filling, I was on my own. It was a great way to use up odds and ends (half a red onion, a package of baby bella mushrooms, 4 red potatoes) and I have quite a bit left over. The dough made two and a half dozen pierogi, half of which I froze for a later date. I'm not sure what to do with the extra filling, other than making more pierogi. In Chicago people would make a dish called, "Lazy Pierogi" which was basically the filling mixed in with cooked egg noodles-not a bad option.

For the filling:

4 large red potatoes, diced and boiled until soft in salted water

1/2 red onion, minced

1 yellow onion, minced

1 package baby bella mushrooms

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon dried sage

1 teaspoon dried thyme

salt and pepper to taste

Prepare dough according to directions HERE. Chill at least an hour.

Cook the potatoes and put through a food mill/ricer. Saute the onion in butter and olive oil over low heat until almost sot. Add the mushrooms and spices and cook down until very soft. Add to mashed potatoes,mix well and let cool before filling pierogi.

Roll out the dough, cut into rounds and fill with a small pinch of filling. You really want to keep to the theory of "less is more" because they will burst and be a big mess if you over-fill them. Seal well and pinch closed with a fork. Before you seal, try to force out any extra air surrounding the filling (as you'd do with ravioli).

Place the finished pierogi on a baking sheet and set in the fridge until you're ready to cook, or at least an hour. It helps if they dry out a bit before boiling (true of most noodles, dumplings, etc).

Boil a large pot of salted water. While the water comes to a boil, cook any additional onions/carrots/etc that you'll be serving with the pierogi. Drop the pierogi into the water a few at a time and cook until they float to the top of the surface. With a slotted spoon, remove them to a rack positioned over a baking sheet and let dry. When they are all boiled, begin heating olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat (watch that it does not begin to smoke). Cook pierogi a few at a time until nicely browned on each side. Remove to a casserole dish with onions and vegetables and keep warm in a low oven as you work.

Serve hot with sour cream (because there isn't enough fat in the pierogis already).

Pierogi Photos Continued From Above Post

If You're Going To Frighten Me... least try to let me know what it is you're talking about.

The phone rings about ten this morning-it's my husband.

"It's OK, I got out of the building and we're waiting around to see if we can get back in."
"There was a gas leak at work, in case you heard about it on the radio and were worried.."
"Um, OK. Where are you now?"
"I drove over to Goodwill to look at books."

Which makes a hell of a lot more sense to me than having everyone stand around the parking lot waiting to see if the building is going to blow. It didn't, by the way, and they eventually got back in to return to work, but I sure am glad he had the sense to take an early lunch and get out of there.

Too bad they had to go back to work though-there's a major winter storm coming in right now and it is going to be a miserable commute by the time he gets home.

In other no-so-bright news;
We have forty mph winds with blowing snow and my neighbour is burning trash in the pit. We live just to the west of said pit. Guess which direction all that smoke and flame is blowing? Yeah, that's right-good guessing. I'm sure he knows what he's doing, but jeepers!

I'm making potato/mushroom pirogi today-film at eleven!

Preparing To Be Iowan

-Oh heavens no, not me! Jenn, from Baby Jail has a role playing an Iowan in an upcoming play and that got me thinking about Bettendorf, Iowa's claim to fame-The Magic Mountain. No, no, no, not a tuberculosis sanatorium. Rather, a loose meat sandwich atop garlic bread and hash brown potatoes and topped with chili (I guess the mountain is volcanic). Personally, I've never made the pilgrimage to Ross' truck stop to indulge, but I'm told it is something to experience.

Anyone ever have one of these?

*I'll bet I'm the first person to tag a post with, "Iowa, Thomas Mann, and Chili."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Onion Quiche

Quiche is the perfect dinner for those nights when everyone will be dining at different times. Delicious hot, it is also a terrific dish served cold and really, it couldn't be easier to prepare.

Typically, this would be made with either Swiss or Gruyere. I had neither so I substituted Bond Ost (A semi-soft Swedish cheese) with great success. In fact, I think I prefer it as the colour is so magnificent once baked.

I kept it simple and used my regular old pie crust recipe rather than messing around with shortcrust pastry. I did give the crust a pre-bake topped with a buttered piece of foil and weighted with beans. After nine minutes in a 400 degree oven, I removed the foil and beans and pricked the crust with a fork. Another nine minutes was perfect. You want the crust to just begin colouring and to pull slightly away from the side. The quiche will bake about 30 minutes in the oven, so use the remaining time as a guide. If your crust recipes usually bake 45 minutes, adapt as needed.

Once crust is pre-baked, begin preparing the onions, which will take another hour. All told, you'll need a couple hours, but not all of that time will be spent over the stove. The onions will only need a stir here and there in the hour.

You Will Need:

1 partially baked pastry crust

6 cups minced onions

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 eggs

2/3 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

dash of nutmeg

1 cup grated cheese (Swiss, Gruyere, Bond Ost, etc.)

1 tablespoon butter cut into small pieces for dotting top

Cook the onions in the butter and oil very slowly until they are quite soft and golden. In the last half, add the thyme.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place rack in upper third of oven.

Beat together the eggs and cream. Stir in the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add half the cheese. Slowly, add the onions to the egg mixture, mixing well. Pour into pre-baked crust and top with remaining cheese. Dot with butter and bake 25-35 minutes or until it has puffed and is browned.

Monday, January 14, 2008


My sister still considers it evidence of child abuse that our mother made gave her sardines and crackers with a bowl of soup for lunch as a young girl. I'm not positive about this, but I'd wager she hasn't eaten a sardine since around 1964.

Me? Oh dear God in heaven, I'd have done anything for a plate of sardines and a bowl of tomato soup. By the time I came along it was dietetic cheese and Rye-Krisp with some saccharine laced gelatin that miraculously did not require refrigeration. Remember that stuff? Believe me, sardines would have been a delight.

So here I am, a mum myself and ready to traumatise yet another generation with the little tins of oil packed fish.

The best part about this version of sardines on toast? The cost. The sardines were .29 cents a tin, the 14.5 oz. tin of tomatoes, .44 cents. The stale end of last week's home baked bread was practically a freebie. I used eight olives, a tablespoon of oil, about ten capers and some chopped herbs. Negligible. A small pinch of hard cheese before placing it the broiler might have added a few cents, but essentially this was a bargain meal. Sardines also make a great provision for emergency kits as they do not require refrigeration and are chock-full of calories if you get them packed in oil. Sardines are the sort of thing I like to keep on hand anyway, but do wait for a sale to stock-up. Walgreens, for some odd reason always seems to have sardines and mandarin oranges on sale. Odd, eh?

You Will Need:

Stale Bread

olive oil

2 tins oil packed sardines

4 black olives

4 green olives

10-12 capers, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon chopped, fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2-3 tablespoons olive oil


1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 14.5 oz tin Italian plum tomatoes, drained, chopped and drained again

1 tablespoon finely grated hard cheese such as Romano

Early in the day, mix together olives, capers, herbs, spices, zest and oil in a small bowl. Cover and place in fridge to marinate. Make toasts bu cutting crusts from bread slices and placing in a 200 degree oven for 15 minutes each side until dried out.

Assemble by placing a spoonful of the olive/caper mixture on the toast. Place a few tomato chunks on as well. Top with mashed-up sardines. Give each toast a pinch of cheese and set under a broiler until the cheese melts. Serve immediately.

Carrots With Blood Oranges, Ginger and Thyme

If you love oranges as much as I do (and I sure do) this might be your sort of side dish. The blood oranges work well as they are less sweet than other varieties and they give the dish such beautiful colour. I prepped the carrots and onion earlier in the day, so putting it together was quick.

You Will Need:

2 blood oranges cut in sections, peeled and membranes removed(reserve 1 teaspoon grated zest).

5 medium carrots, scraped (do I really need to tell you that?) and cut into matchsticks

1 tablespoon crystalised ginger, chopped

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 small red onion, sliced thin

salt and pepper

Melt butter in pan and add carrots and onion. Add olive oil and cook slowly until both carrots and onions are almost soft. Add the oranges, zest, herbs and salt/pepper. Cook until quite soft. Serve hot.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Spinach and Onions

I seem to be making quite a bit of spinach this week. This particular preparation is easy enough to keep warm as other parts of dinner finish cooking.

You Will Need:

1 box frozen spinach, cooked drained and squeezed dry in a dishtowel.

1 large onion, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon dried thyme

salt and pepper

olive oil for sauteing

Heat pan with olive oil (about 2 tablespoons). Over semi-low heat, cook the onions, garlic, and herbs taking care that the garlic does not burn. When onions are soft and browned (about 1/2 hour) add the spinach and stir well. Add more oil if it seems dry and heat through. Serve warm.

Possum Roumelade

I hope you like this dish, it was a huge hit at dinner.**

You Will Need:

2 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper (if using a cheese that contains pepper-otherwise you may wish to increase this)

1 tablespoon dried, minced onion

1 large celeriac, peeled and thinly sliced

1 skinned and cooked possum (optional)*

3 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

1 cup Swiss cheese, grated

1 cup hard cheese (Romano, Parmesan, etc. I used the Pepato cheese again because I had it)

1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs (I used the chap, dry ones that come in a tin at the supermarket that were probably swept up off the factory floor)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Stir together the cream, salt, pepper, parsley and onion. As you slice the potatoes and celeriac, toss it in the bowl with the cream.

Butter a large (9x13) baking dish and drain the potatoes, reserving the cream. Spread them in the pan and then pour the cream over. Mix the breadcrumbs with the cheese and top the potatoes and celeriac. At this point, if using the possum, cut it into generous chunks (because you don't want to be stingy when there's possum for eatin') and throw it atop the breadcrumb/cheese mixture. Bake about 45 minutes or until vegetables are soft and top is well-browned. Let stand for a bit before serving.

* I just wanted to make sure you guys are paying attention.

**OK, it isn't a roumelade at all, it is a gratin, or colloquially, a "bake." Roumelade sounded funnier. The recipe was inspired by a few recipes I found on the web and with enough mixing and matching and substituting (because who keeps something like three cups of Gruyere on hand?) this was what I ended up with. I think you could prepare this by layering the potato and celeriac slices and dusting them with flour and then dotting with butter. I'd omit the heavy cream in that case and use milk instead. I believe this is also called "scalloped", though the addition of cheese perhaps makes it a "gratin." Either way, it is a pretty flexible thing. In fact, I wasn't as crazy about the chewy/crusty top as everyone else and I'd probably cut way back on the cheese if I made it again.
It is also worth noting that my three year old ate it without complaint.